Arkansas No. 2 challenges for third straight NCAA indoor title

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – No. 2 Arkansas enters the 2022 NCAA Indoor Championships as a two-time defending champion with tag team titles in 2019 and 2021. The road to a third straight title will be tough as the tag team battle includes at least four other schools in Florida, Texas, LSU, and Kentucky.

“It would be great to win a third straight indoor title,” Arkansas women’s head coach Lance Harter said. “It’s a situation where we won’t be favorites like we were in 2019 and 2021. We’re going to have to work a bit more as a companion because we have a lot of balls, but they have to hit the target.

“Our goal is to try to get over 50 or 60 points to win it. We’ll be in a battle with other SEC schools as well as Texas to win one of those top four trophies. We have good weapons, but we also have people who maybe need to step up in their respective event and contribute the best they can.

The Razorbacks return 40 points from last year’s national championship team, which totaled 68 points to defeat Texas A&M (57). Arkansas became the first school to win the NCAA indoor team title without an individual or relay victory by winning four silver and three bronze medals in six events.

Lauren Gregory (3000m) and Daszay Freeman (60m hurdles) won silver in their respective events as well as the medley relay while bronze medals went to Shafiqua Maloney (800m) and the 4×400 relay.

“There’s no doubt that experience helps a lot,” Harter said. “The idea is to keep your composure and distance, while respecting the opposition, but without being overwhelmed by it. It’s another slightly more exclusive athletics meeting, where there are 16 people who are invited to each event, and half of them will score points.

Both Razorback relays hold the top seed, having set a college record in the 4×400 with their SEC title of 3:24.09 and a school record in the distance medley relay with a performance of 10:51.63 .

The 4×400 effort broke the previous college record by more than two full seconds from the 3:26.27 set by Texas A&M in 2021. It also ranks Arkansas 3rd in performance and 4th in the world. all time list. The world record of 3:23.37 was set by Russia in 2006.

Racing in the final section of the 4×400 on Saturday, the Razorbacks will be joined by Texas A&M (3:25.43) and Kentucky (3:25.89), who also bettered the previous college record in the SEC Finals, with Texas ( 3:28.05).

“There are going to be some great duels in the sprint zones and the distance events are more our forte compared to the other three teams,” Harter said. “We all have 4×400 stints so it would be really nice if it came down to 4×400. We would look forward to that.

Britton Wilson, who is ranked second in the 400m with a UA record 50.88, also produced the world’s second-fastest time of 49.83 on the anchor leg of the 4×400 collegiate record. than a 49.54 set by Athing Mu last year and is one of only four individuals to have ever run under 50 seconds on an indoor 4×400.

Maloney also set all-time records with relay splits this season. On the 4×400 collegiate record, her 50.60 spread ranks as the fastest ever among collegiate girls in Game 3. In the distance medley relay, her 800m split time of 2:01.95 ranks as the second fastest time, trailing just 2:01.93 by professional Brenda Martinez.

In the distance medley relay, the Razorbacks moved to No. 3 on the all-time collegiate list as they slashed the previous UA record of 10:51.89 from 2015, which is now the No. 4 on the all-time collegiate list. .

Individually, Maloney is the second seed in the 800m with a season best of 2:01.74 while Gregory will compete in the 3,000m and 5,000m, where she is seeded fifth (8:53.77) and sixth (15:34.58), respectively.

“Lauren will run the 5,000m on Friday night and return to the 3,000m on Saturday night,” noted Harter. “The SEC meet turned out to be some great practice in preparation for that one-two at the NCAA meet. She’s very fit and healthy. Now it’s all about lining up.

“Our medley is changing shape with Shafiqua in the 800m and the schedule being a bit tighter to double up in his individual event and the DMR as well as Lauren being a weapon in the 5000m. We are going to run a new combination in the relay.

The lineup scheduled for the medley distance relay includes Isabel Van Camp, Krissy Gear and Logan Jolly as well as a 400m depth selection from the Razorback in this event.

Elien Vekemans and Nastassja Campbell are ranked fourth and sixth in the pole vault as each produced career-best marks indoors with clearances of 14-8 (4.47) and 14-7.25 (4, 45).

This marks the 22nd straight year the Razorbacks have qualified an athlete in the pole vault and the ninth consecutive season Arkansas has qualified multiple athletes in the event. Over the past 16 years, the Razorbacks have advanced more than one outfielder in the NCAA Indoor 15 times.

In the sprint group, Jada Baylark and Rosey Effiong also return as the 2021 team title scorers, each placing seventh in the 60m and 400m, respectively. Baylark is ranked seventh in the 200m with a career-best 22.89 and eighth in the 60m (7.18) this season, while Effiong is ranked 12th in the 400m with a 52.14.

A third Razorback in the 400m is Morgan Burks-Magee, seeded seventh with a career best 52.06. Burks-Magee was also a member of the 2019 NCAA Indoor Championship, along with Gregory, and raced both stints that season, with the 4×400 placing third and the distance mix finishing fifth.

Jayla Hollis is a double entry for Arkansas, seeded ninth in the 200m with a career-best 22.99 and 16and in the 60m hurdles with a PR of 8.08. Freeman is seeded 11and in the hurdles with an 8.02. A best of 23.25 has Joanne Reid seeded 14and in the 200m as the third Razorback in that event and the only true freshman. Quinn Owens joins Maloney in the 800m with a career best 2:04.03 that is seeded 15and.